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Firefighters' visit teaches kids fire, life safety

October 5, 2008

SCOTTSDALE - Third-graders at Tonalea Elementary School may be looking forward to careers as firefighters after getting lost in oversized gear and soaked by heavyweight water hoses while playing junior firefighters for a day.

About 15 Scottsdale firefighters, volunteers and hospital officials simulated firefighting techniques to help teach 65 students about fire and life-safety skills Wednesday.

"It's important for them to have a hands-on experience," said Nancy Brazel, who teaches third- and fourth-graders at the school. "Just telling them doesn't do it. They have to see it; they have to touch it, feel it and actually participate. That will resonate with them."

Firefighters took students through stations where kids handled equipment.

They participated in a bucket brigade: lining up in a row and passing buckets of water to put out a fire, just as firefighters did in the past.

They also learned today's method of putting out fires, by joining together to hold a heavy fire hose to knock down "flames" made of plywood inside a structure. "I'm enjoying it because it's all about water and all about firefighters," said third-grader Lupita Sanchez, whose brother is training to be a firefighter.

The students also donned firefighter gear, climbed aboard firetrucks and talked with firefighters they have come to know well, said Lori Schmidt, public education officer for the Scottsdale Fire Department.

Wednesday's activities were a follow-up to the previous week, when the department came to the school to talk about safety steps and protection.

"This is one of the cool things that we can do to complement class lessons and actually put them into practice for the children," Schmidt said. "Our guys are getting a kick out of it, and the kids are really finding someone that they can connect with. They become mentors and somebody to look up to."

The fire department has already planned similar activities at two more elementary schools in Scottsdale and hopes to reach all 22 by the end of the school year, Schmidt said.

"When they think of third grade, they're not going to think of the math test they took," said Breanne Moro, a third-grade teacher at Tonalea, who also organized the event. "They're going to think 'Oh my gosh! Remember that fire thing we did?' "

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Heidi Homa
Copyright 2008 Arizona Republic

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